27 February 2017, No. 240, Melba Moore, ‘You Stepped into My Life’

I have No. 240, Melba Moore’s “You Stepped into My Life,” on a compilation, in case you wonder why the mixtape doesn’t use any of the breaks from the end. My version from Hit Action is truncated rather than edited, and it fades out around the 4:15 mark, just before the breaks and chants start heating up. There are a full two minutes of introductory vamping and string section warmups before Moore ever sings a word, though, so plenty of long-mix DJ fodder at the front end. Which is not to say the twelve-inch version isn’t now on my radar. It is, because I really like this song.

The vocal phrasing in the hook, particularly the rests between stepped and into and I’m and oh so happy is what does it for me in vocals. The punchy, punctuated vocals give an otherwise soft song something of a harder edge. Also the hook’s ascendant closer, “Stepped into my life / stepped into my life / stepped into my life” adds a nice sense of climbing toward something satisfying. This is anti-trauma music at its finest, all syrup and no cynicism.

In the intro there’s an instrument I’ve heard often but have trouble identifying. When I’ve heard it here and in other songs, I’ve always thought it was some sort of talking drum or bass cuíca, but having reviewed some videos of people playing talking drums and cuícas, I know it’s not those. It’s a pitch-bendy percussion-ish sound like booweeooh, and it hits on the fourth beat of the first bar. It must be what happens when you play the low conga while pressing on the head to change the tension. Or something with the conga. Maybe just the open tone? To my ear it has a little of that cuíca-like, plastic-straw-in-a-plastic-lid timbre, which I like because of its use in “Shake Your Rump” from the Beastie Boys. As is often the case, this is a sound I like because it was featured on or is similar to something from Paul’s Boutique.

The slappy bassline in the first eight bars reminds me of Locksmith’s “Far Beyond,” which forms the basis of “Red Alert” from Basement Jaxx, a song that in 1999 I thought of as background noise if I thought of it at all but later came to enjoy. When I get on a late ’90s house anthems kick, you’ll often hear me play that one.

For now, give Melba Moore a chance to step into your life and make you oh so happy.

26 February 2017, No. 239, The Jackson Sisters, ‘I Believe in Miracles (Extended Mix)’

In my files this copy of “I Believe in Miracles (Extended Mix)” from The Jackson Sisters says it’s an edit from someone called “Benny B,” but upon closer examination it turns out to be a poorly remastered duplicate of No. 238 (which isn’t even the original, as I thought it was). No. 239 might also be quantized, but I’m doubtful, and besides, quantization hardly constitutes an edit. Having never played the two tracks back to back, I never noticed they’re the same. Today’s track, the faux edit, has been compressed, limited, and made much louder, but primarily in one channel, as I learned when including it on the mixtape, in which context I fixed the balance, so you may not hear it. Anyway, I’ve made a note not to play this track in the future. Can’t delete it, though, or I’ll mess up the rest of the record show numbering, forget about having messed it up, and then talk about it later as though the disappearance of a tune or two from the list is some great mystery. Which means the inclusion of No. 239 and other similar errata as yet undiscovered will be stetted here and removed from real rotation over in “disco jams.” No. 238 I’ll stet in the crate, and we still haven’t really talked about the music yet. It’s a byow wow kind of jam, and I often have to restrain myself, or I’ll play it in every set.

I’ve always thought of that byow wow in the intro as a guitar with a wah-wah pedal, but upon closer listening I recognize it as a similarly accoutered Clavinet. Also present are huge drums, and the 30 seconds or so the sixteen-bar intro takes up are enough time to make a solid transition, especially if you EQ out the bass and start with just the Clavinet, hi-hats, and snare. Another nice feature of the intro is that the big horn stab in the sixteenth bar does not lead directly into the vocal, so if you forget to kill the other tune, the danger is slight. Regardless, the tempo does vary in those horn hits, so it’s best to quit riding the mix there and get out of the way. Simon Harris probably had this in mind when he made the 4:45 extended remix we’ve now spent two entries talking about, mistaking it first for the original and today for an edit by someone tryna cash in on Benny Benassi’s name. I should have guessed that what I thought of as the original was too long and neatly structured to be real. The actual original is still amazing, but its shorter intro and lack of a breakdown makes it less DJ friendly than Harris’s extended mix.

Gene Page did the arrangement on this tune, and I know his name because I have his Close Encounters LP. His discofied versions of the Close Encounters of the Third Kind leitmotif and the Star Trek theme are, like the rest of the Close Encounters LP, stringy and overproduced, but they feature cool keyboard and synth work throughout (Page was a pianist), so the LP stays on my shelves for now. I have just the one solo LP, but Page was an arranger for loads of prominent acts, and he has credits on 31 of the records in my stacks.

Finally there are the Sisters Jackson themselves—Jacqueline, Lyn, Pat, Rae, and Gennie—who wrote songs on a beat-up piano in their garage, won a talent competition, opened for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, moved from Compton to Detroit, and recorded “I Believe in Miracles.” I love to sing along with the hook and try to hit the high harmony on the sustained “you.” I’m not sure which sister sang which part, but Jacqueline gets top billing everywhere and was the oldest of the bunch, so let’s assume that’s her kicking off the first verse with the forceful and contradictory line, “They say the day is ending,” as the song is starting. Then we’ll let it keep playing and enjoy the miraculous world The Jackson Sisters have created just for you.

20 February 2017, No. 238, The Jackson Sisters, ‘I Believe in Miracles’

I don’t, actually, believe in miracles, is the first thing to cover here. I “believe in” clichés, and I “believe in” humans’ capacity for self-deception, willful or otherwise, but I don’t accept as objective reality that bullshit to which people ascribe the adjective miraculous. Detractors may “problematize” “objective reality” all they want. I have scare quotes for days. My point is your statue of that virgin, Mary, isn’t crying. It’s dripping toilet water from a floor above, and such indulgences shouldn’t be bottled and sold.

Lucky for us this ain’t no Dead show and we don’t need no miracle to get in. And also as well, whereas purported miracles usually stink to the highest of heavens, The Jackson Sisters’ belief in miracles at No. 238 (in “I Believe in Miracles”) smells oh so sweet.

The second thing to cover (another thing? how many things so far?) is how when I started writing the record show, it wasn’t a writing project. That’s why the essays in the first few books are so short. The main point was to reveal my list slowly, one item per day. Now I feel like it needs more than just a title every day, and I try to give a little essay. But it would take a bona fide miracle to get me to write daily like I mean to, plus even though there are a fair few words in this here exposition, it’s been mostly dilatory thus far, and I haven’t even talked at all about the stuff I like about the song.

We’ll get to defining and praiseworthy features next time when we do an edit of the same miraculous jawn that’s on display today.

13 February 2017, WGRS Book 6

The life of an editor is hard, especially when a mistake slips through. At 17:10ish on Warm Glow Record Show 6: Let It Mind, the Chicago Gangsters song “Gangster Boogie” skips a beat. Dammit. But then how did I do that “beadle-uh-beadle-uh bum” bullshit after the “share my dreams with you” at 21:47? It barely made sense to me when I was staring right at the Fourier transforms. I think I played a lot of finger drums along with that one. And upon review, it might still be a sixteenth note off.

Ableton’s quantization isn’t good enough yet to snap all this stuff to the grid automatically all the time, so when I get to a spot in an hour-long track where it would actually be useful, I’m invariably way off the grid. Luckily enough the record keeps spinning, though, baby, round and round with a new if imperfect take on the same old sound.

Another editor’s dilemma: I thought I had all the list numbers and tracks sorted out into the 950s, and I still pretty much do, but this book marks the first list discrepancy I’ve found. The original numbers in these pieces were off by two places, as though I found two more doubled-up tracks, deleted them, and forgot to make note. Anyway, for future editors who may be trying to re-curate this list, I apologize. I don’t think I deleted or lost two tracks, and I’m also not going back to look. Not now, anyway.

I’m gonna set you on fire, ’cause it’s hot.

I knew the copy of “Ain’t Nobody” I used was bad while I was using it, but I used it anyway. It’s from my copy of the Breakin’ soundtrack LP and is among the first record rips I ever made when I bought Serato Scratch Live in 2007. I ripped those records with the same poor Shure M44-7 I’d been beating up for a year tryna learn how to scratch. I know I need to go back to all those cuts and transcribe a second time, but I’ll keep the original copies around. They sound to me like the dark West Philly basements and sun-bright block parties where I learned to mix them together.

Get your finger on the funk. Or be the finger on the funk. Either way, anyway, take your handful of feeling and boogie down, jam. Then just let it mind.


12 February 2017, No. 237, Interior, ‘Giant Steps’

The quality of No. 237, “Giant Steps” by Interior, makes me think I need to go back and reevaluate this whole album. I have a real soft spot for pleasant-sounding music driven by synthesizers, and this is one of those songs. The drums and sand blocks here are relentless and do a nice job of offsetting the pretty and generally upbeat synth and piano lines. There’s a big rock guitar interlude I could maybe do without, and I think I edited at least some of it out for the mixtape. My other complaint is that “Giant Steps” just doesn’t have the bass to drive big speakers, so I EQ’d it to death on the mixtape. Then I dialed it back a little when I saw the Fouriers in Audacity during mastering, the amplified bass frequencies pushing the tune all the way up to reference level while most of the rest of the songs left my 6 dB of headroom intact. I didn’t dial the bass back all the way, though, and the mixtape edit/remix still adds a nice bit of bottom end.

I mentioned that No. 162, “It” from Barrabas, is one of the songs I might keep secret if I weren’t purposely giving all my secrets away here on the record show. “Giant Steps” is another such song. It’s not a tune that often draws people to the DJ booth to ask “What is this?” but I like to think it sticks with people who find themselves humming the melody, unable to place it, for a week or two after they’ve heard it. Let’s hear it now.

11 February 2017, No. 236, The Hues Corporation, ‘Rock the Boat’

This is one of those sleeper singles driven eventually to the top of the charts by the nascent New York disco scene, and its strings and schmaltz were still sweet and soulful in 1973, before they were replicated ad infinitum to make a buck off a trend. The Hues Corporation would like to know where you got the notion in No. 236, “Rock the Boat.” The cut was so popular, they put the single version on their second album too.

Soaring strings and record sales aside, I’ve always found the title of this song to contradict its core message, and maybe deliberately so. The participants in the stichomythic hook are diametrically opposed, with the chorus urging boat-rocking while a plaintive Fleming Williams countermands such capsizing silliness. As much as I hate falling on the side of the hoi polloi, I’m with the group on this one. Rock that boat. Provided you know how to swim.

One could swim in the horn lines in “Rock the Boat,” which sound like they’re being poured from a pitcher. Somewhere in the vicinity of sonorous and mellifluous there’s a word for this texture. Sonifluous? Syrupy, really, but still able to be poured from a pitcher and perhaps even swum in, once properly pooled. Just be sure to retain the services of salvage divers to go after that cargo of love and devotion what sunk to the bottom of the sea.

8 February 2017, No. 235, Hot Chocolate, ‘Every 1’s a Winner’

The use of the numeral 1 in the title of No. 235, Hot Chocolate’s “Every 1’s a Winner,” bothers me. It’s pointless, and Everyone’s would have served just as well. Better, even.

That 1 small matter aside (see, it irks 1, right?), I like the rock guitar riff that opens this tune about as much as I like any other opening rock guitar riff. Hot Chocolate songs are some of the few on this list that have both disco and rock in their genre ID3 tags, and I often find myself caught at the pinnacle of a rock-guitar run with nowhere to go from Hot Chocolate except to more Hot Chocolate. Fortunately, “You Sexy Thing” and “You Could’ve Been a Lady” always go over well.

When I first moved to Athens, I dragged the DJ gear out to the end of my driveway and played music to the runners in a half marathon who were passing my house. “Every 1’s a Winner” is one of the songs I played, along with “Marathon Runner (Alkalino Mutant Disco Edit)” from Aural Exciters and “The Runner” by The Three Degrees (which latter isn’t on this list; I’ve added it to the next one). I’m not sure I played “The Runner” from Tropique, which is not a cover of the Three Degrees tune, nor is it good enough to be on the list, probably, but there it is in the low 700s anyway with a note to play only 3:20 to 6:05, which does actually cover two pretty dope breaks without admitting much or any bad, stringy stuff. More on that record in the 123-bpm range, and that’s no lie.

5 February 2017, No. 234, George Clinton, ‘Atomic Dog (Original Extended Version)’

Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg taught me this song twice before I knew who George Clinton was, so when I first heard “bow wow wow yippee yo yippee yay” coming off the Computer Games LP, I experienced one of those epiphanic little clicks that make collecting old records fun. No. 234, George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog (Original Extended Version),” as the title implies, is not the LP version I first heard. I’m not sure if it’s the same as the “Atomic Mix” on most of the twelves, but the timing is within five seconds or so, making it a safe enough bet they’re similar if not the same. What definitely is the same is the bassline from another joint in the George Clinton universe Dr. Dre used in two tracks that both lift vocals from No. 234.

The bassline in “____ Wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)” and the bassline from Snoop’s “What’s My Name?” are slowed down versions of the bassline from a section of “(Not Just) Knee Deep” by Funkadelic. When I think of “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” I think only of the synth lead Maseo, Dave, and Prince Paul reused in De La Soul’s “Me, Myself, and I,” a song that makes no use of the bass part that must have fixed in Dre’s mind. Maybe now when I think of “(Not Just) Knee Deep” I’ll think of Dre’s g-funk bass interpolations too.

When the Dre and Snoop connections run out, stick with “Atomic Dog.” Bits and pieces of neutron dogs, funky dogs, and nasty dogs can be heard dancing far off into the outer reaches of the samplesphere, eluding dogcatchers starting in the ’80s and running right up through Lil Wayne.

Keep your ears up, and don’t bother chasing your tail.

2 February 2017, No. 233, Gaz Nevada, ‘I.C. Love Affair (Munk Edit)’

“Ooh, ’77. Ooh, she gave me heaven,” intones whomever’s singing for Gaz Nevada (or Gaznevada, depending on the release; the name derives from Raymond Chandler’s short story “Nevada Gas”) on “I.C. Love  Affair (Munk Edit).” Apparently the group was nostalgic for Italy’s Movement of ’77, during which demonstrations in Gaz Nevada’s hometown of Bologna turned bloody. Police killed a member of Lotta Continua, and Sartre spoke up, as did Foucault, de Beauvoir, Barthes, and Deleuze and Guattari.

A month after 100,000 people gathered for the violence-free National Convention Against Repression, also in Bologna, Gaz Nevada formed as a punk rock band with a situationist bent. Maybe that sardonic and absurdist outlook is what motivated them six years later to steal outright from the Bee Gees and use falsetto vocals to augment Fawsia’s backups on “I.C. Love Affair.” The nasally Bee Gees thing is quite clear in the line “Ooh, she gave me heaven,” and while the vocals are way up there in the stratosphere, I think the tongue was firmly in cheek.

Gaz Nevada’s origins in punk rock, no wave, and political art may have given them the seemingly counterintuitive impetus to make Italo disco. Sort of like the Beastie Boys decided a punk rock thing to do would be to make a rap record, I can see Gaz Nevada sitting around saying, “You know, disco’s been driven back underground. Wouldn’t it be transgressive to make some?” Thankfully they weren’t the only ones thinking along those lines, and there are bunch of great records like this.

The Munk edit featured here is from a compilation of material from Italian Records (and its imprints) called Confuzed Disco, the second disc of the CD version of which comprises edits and remixes. Among other italo records with a no wave feel, at least one of them is also on the Confuzed Disco comp; in the early 500s we’ll have an NOIA’s  “True Love (Sexual Version).”

Munk’s take on “I.C. Love Affair” is a little too obviously edited for effect, but I guess that was the style in 2006 when the compilation was released. There are too many repeated single beats, and the eighth notes after the vocal section in the last two minutes make the edit feel too modern for my tastes. Which is not to say I didn’t use some of that stuff in my own mixtape edit. Can’t everything feel old and dusty all the time.

Give a listen. History and editing aside, the synths here are bouncy without ebullience, and that’s what got the song on the list in the first place. Yeah.

1 February 2017, No. 232, Empress, ‘Dyin’ to Be Dancin’’

The intro here in No. 232 is everything one wants in free disco drums. “Dyin’ to Be Dancin’” from Empress has got a nice clap, a little guiro, and a slight phaser effect on the cymbals. Not to mention that ill bouncing basketball sound stacked up with the snares and claps on two and four. Somebody help me.

When the bass guitar kicks in, all I can think is “The Bubble Bunch” by Jimmy Spicer, a Spicer at least an order of magnitude better than the Sean who’s been trying to manipulate the news of late. He’ll never never get enough.

Another thing I like about the intro is the tension between the guiro’s sixteenth notes, which are very straight, and the tambourine’s, which are swinging all over the place. Through the rest of the song the sandpaper blocks try to strike a balance, and eventually the tambourine straightens up a little.

This tune features strong horn lines and sexy whispers, as well as a number of funky breaks. It’s also free from strings. A string synth comes in and lays down some pad-type lines, but you can tell it’s not a studio orchestra, and that helps sell it to me.

I have this on a compilation from the now-defunct 98.7 KISS FM New York called 98.7 Kiss FM Presents Shep Pettibone’s Mastermixes. The compilation introduced me to D Train, The Nick Straker Band, and most importantly, the Jeanette “Lady” Day “Come Let Me Love You” version with “Spasticus Autisticus” cut in. Oh so good. If only everything with Pettibone’s name on it were quite so satisfying.

For now we’re listening to bouncing ball sounds and a balloon-like bassline. Empress will have you dyin’ to be dancin’ too.